The Vernon Pickleball Association (VPA) is located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The VPA is home to over 1100 members with 300 on the waitlist. In 2023 the association was voted the Top Pickleball Club in Canada by Pickleball Today.
The VPA runs three one day tournaments and one three-day sanctioned tournament each year. Additionally, they hosted the first B.C. Championships in 2023 with 620 competitors. In order to successfully run provincials, they utilized 40+ officials. At the time the VPA only had three accredited referees. And so, in preparation for the 2023 Provincial Championships a referee training program occurred that resulted in the number of accredited referees in the VPA reaching 14 by the end of year. There were many bumps and bruises along the way, and lots of learning of what not to do! From this experience the VPA knew that it should create a referee training program that facilitated the development of new referees in a supportive environment in preparation for hosting the 2024 Pickleball Canada Western Regional Championships 25 – 29 July, 2024.
Starting in October of 2023 Richard Chambers the Tournament Director at the VPA recruited Shannon McClean and Suzan Ross (both Level 2 credentialed referees at VPA) as coordinators of the referee training program. As well, five Level 1 referees volunteered to act as mentors.
On November 2, 2023, the program launched, and seventeen potential referees began training. During the first few lessons they learned the basics of the program such as how to hold a clipboard and how to call the score. These basic steps were taken slowly in order for the new referees to develop confidence in their abilities. From there they started to include the script and brought in time-out and game procedures followed by faults and most recently they introduced disciplinary actions and procedures.
“Once people gained more confidence after the first few lessons people really started enjoying it and having fun. They started to realize the impact referees have on their club”, stated Suzan Ross one of the Coordinators for the Referee Program.
Many of the referees in training have found this program to be very helpful and appreciate the steps the VPA has taken to create a supportive program that has built their confidence.
“I am thrilled the VPA is holding a referee training program. They are making a huge effort to train new recruits for our organization, and they are taking their time to give us a better understanding of what it takes to become a new Referee”, said Ziggy Kreipe, one of the referees in training.
This program has not only been a big help for new referees but also for the referee mentors as it puts their knowledge to the test in guiding the referees in training. It assists the mentors in keeping their skills fresh for tournament season.
“It has been gratifying to see these trainees grow their skills so that they will be so much more prepared for tournament time. Plus, my own knowledge base has grown, and I too have benefitted as we discuss as a group the game procedures. In my opinion it’s a fun, casual learning environment that has and will benefit everybody”, said Referee Mentor Sandy Vaughan Hastie.
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